Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Period Of Momentous Change

As mentioned yesterday, the Metis culture emerged during the 19th century, a unique blend of French-Canadian and First Nations cultures that became distinctly recognized as a separate entity. Here are some of their clothing items.

The Metis would be an integral part of the story of the West, with the founding of Manitoba being part of their legacy. Another part would be armed conflict with the federal government- which would lead to defeat and the execution of their great leader Louis Riel. History has been kinder to Riel, who today is deemed a Father of Confederation.

Another story of the West is that of the transcontinental railroad, binding the east and west, a momentous project.

One of the lasting legacies of the world from this time is the idea of CPR chief engineer Sanford Fleming: time zones across the planet.

These items are by the Haida artist Charles Edenshaw, a prolific artist of the latter half of the 19th century and into the early 20th century.

A tradition of the Pacific Coast peoples long suppressed by the government was the concept of the potlatch

For the federal government, it became important to settle the vastness of the West.

Monday, January 30, 2023

The First Steps Of A New Canada

Confederation of the colonies brought them all under an autonomous dominion. While it started with the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, in time the rest would follow.

This is the city of Kingston, Ontario, on the day that Confederation was enacted: July 1st, 1867.

A photograph of the original Centre Block on Parliament Hill from that time is here.

The path led me on.

This is one of the treasures of the Museum. The Blackfoot people ranged through the northern plains on both sides of the border, and one of their longstanding traditions was the winter count. An elkskin would be decorated each winter, starting at centre and spiraling out, depicting the most important thing about the year that had passed.

It is side by side with a saddle and a rifle. The horse and the gun changed the ways of First Nations peoples forever.

This large painting dates to 1869, and is by Frances Anne Hopkins. Canoe Manned By Voyageurs Passing A Waterfall depicts a typical scene of the French-speaking traders who went deep into the continent, establishing relationships with First Nations peoples, often marrying into their tribes. Out of those relationships eventually came a new culture, distinct all their own: the Metis.

A canoe, too big to get into frame on its own, is mounted across from the painting, suspended over the space below.

For today, I end here.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

The Fathers Of Confederation

 A large space along the path tells the story of Canadian Confederation in the 1860s.

Part of the backdrop of the movement was drawn out of the chaos of the American Civil War. Leaders in the Canadian colonies saw the result of a country with weaker federal government responsibilities play itself out in force south of the border, and took that as an example not to follow. As well, the general tone of the Americans about musing on annexing Canada stressed the need to unite and work together.

In the wake of the Civil War came the Fenian Raids, the military operations of Irish-American veterans of the Union Army who hoped to hold Canada for ransom to force the British to grant Ireland independence. The raids were turned back each time. This display case features a musket of the time, and the standard uniform of a Union soldier. Most of the Fenian Raiders simply wore their old uniform.

The need to remain independent of a resurging American union and the lessons learned by Canadian leaders of what had happened south of the border became part of the framework of Confederation.

Three leaders formed what was called the Great Coalition during the talks for Confederation. John A. Macdonald and George Etienne-Cartier, at lower right, were co-premiers of the Canadas. George Brown at lower left was a rival politician who despised Macdonald. But they all understood the need to work together for the greater good.

Another of the Fathers of Confederation as they would come to be called was the most eloquent voice of them all. Thomas D'Arcy McGee was a friend of Macdonald, Irish by birth, a radical in youth who had called for Irish independence. He had come to North America, settling down as a journalist, writer, and lawyer before entering politics. It was in Canada that his world view completely changed and he saw the value of British constitutional parliament. He would become a fierce advocate for Canadian unity in that tradition. In doing so he ended up despised by his former comrades in the Fenian movement.

One of them assassinated him in 1868 when he was coming home to his boarding house after a session in Parliament. The country mourned his loss.

This is the gun used in the assassination. Patrick James Whelan, a Fenian supporter, was arrested, tried, and executed for the assassination, but there have long been doubts as to if he was guilty- or the only one involved.

For today, one of the iconic photographs of Canadian history: the Fathers of Confederation, posing together at the Charlottetown conference.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Towards New Ideas

This large crest is of the Molsons Bank in Montreal. In the first half of the 19th century, Montreal became the driving economic and cultural heart of British North America.

This elegant sleigh is nearby.

The Geological Survey of Canada was founded in Montreal, where its headquarters included a museum for the public. The institution later moved to Ottawa, but that museum is the origin of the national museums of Canada, seven of which are now in the national capital area, administered under four government corporations.

The first director of the GSC was William Logan, whose leadership provided the scientific foundations of the organization- still the oldest scientific government agency in the country.

The 1830s were a time of turbulent unrest and rebellion in Canada. Out of this time came the fusion of the legislatures of Upper and Lower Canada- today Ontario and Quebec- into one. It was unwieldy and chaotic, but out of that period came a homegrown movement towards the idea of responsible government. This would ultimately lead to Confederation.

Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine was one of the co-premiers of the Canadas at the time, and a driving force behind responsible government. This quote is from him.